Daily Archives: October 7, 2009

Banking industry should take cue from Big Tobacco

The banking industry could learn a little something from the cigarette business, and that is that there’s a time to shut up and do the right thing. Just put the warning labels on the credit card statements, already, and stop grousing about the cost and trouble of trying to protect consumers from their own worst instincts.

Is Food The Next Tobacco?

The multigenerational process to reduce U.S. and global cigarette consumption is being replayed in the food world.

NJ lawmaker seeks to limit electronic cigarette

PARAMUS, N.J. - A northern New Jersey lawmaker wants to extend current limits on the availability of tobacco cigarettes to apply to electronic cigarettes to prevent them from being embraced by children.

School tobacco policy change not approved

The sound of silence last week shot down a proposed tweak of the Bland County school system’s suspension policy for students caught with tobacco on school grounds.
During the School Board’s Sept. 28 meeting, the governing body members twice let a recommendation from Superintendent Don Hodock to change the tobacco policy fade away without an up or down vote.
Any Bland County student found to have chewing tobacco or cigarettes on school grounds is given an automatic 10-day, out-of-school suspension.
Hodock, with input from high school principals Eric Workman and Kevin Siers, asked the School Board last week to consider changing the policy to allow offending students – on their first infraction – to serve the last half of their punishment as an in-school suspension.
The superintendent explained that he was requesting the revision “so that these students won’t get so far behind.” Although he didn’t readily have statistics available for tobacco suspensions during the 2008-09 school year, Hodock said after the meeting that two Bland High School students have already been suspended for having tobacco at school during the first six weeks of the new school year.
Hodock stressed that he wasn’t seeking to make tobacco use at school a lesser offense by altering the punishment.
“We clearly don’t want to send a message to our kids that this is something we’re going to take a lighter look at,” he said.
Ten days away from school, though, often put students hopelessly behind on their work, the superintendent said.
With a five days out-of-school, five days in-school suspension policy, Hodock said the later half of the punishment period would ideally be used for the students to catch up on their missed work.
Siers also stated later in the meeting that students on out-of-school suspensions are counted as absent in a way that hurts the schools’ attendance rate – a factor taken into consideration when schools are judged on their compliance with No Child Left Behind requirements.
The Bland principal said his school in recent years has been dangerously close to falling below the minimal attendance threshold.
But the School Board apparently disagreed with the superintendent and the principals’ recommendation.
After Hodock presented his proposal, School Board member Rob Brizendine briefly shared his thoughts on the issue, saying that tobacco use by minors is not only against school policy, but also the law.
“I hate to see the kids kicked out of school for that long,” he said. “The problem I do have with it is that it’s illegal.”
School Board members Melinda Litton and Roger Morehead, however, offered no insight into their feelings on the issue before Morehead, who was leading the meeting in the absence of Chairman Anthony Kennedy, asked for a motion to change the policy.
After a full minute of silence with no additional viewpoints voiced, Morehead simply moved on to the next item on the meeting’s agenda.
Kennedy eventually was able to make it to the meeting, but he arrived seconds after the governing body passed a motion to go into closed session. After the group broke for dinner and the closed session, the tobacco issue was briefly brought up again, albeit well after the group initially convened at 5 p.m.
Hodock said in a phone interview earlier this week that Kennedy added his thoughts to the proposed policy tweak during the second time it was addressed. A second call for a motion on the recommendation, however, again died with nary a yay or nay.
While the paucity of discussion on the tobacco policy represented just the latest School Board decision by indecision, the lack of public debate on a small policy adjustment doesn’t seem to bode well for decisive action on more substantive issues facing the governing body such as school consolidation and a likely looming budget crunch.
After the School Board held two public comment sessions on school consolidation in early June, the issue has not been brought up again in open session during the ensuing four regular monthly meetings.
Despite not acting on the central office’s recommendation to fine-tune the school system’s tobacco policy, the School Board did pass two new policies regulating student instruction last week.
On both of the student instruction policies, the governing body delayed discussion and taking action on the requests until Kennedy’s arrival.
In August, the School Board was made aware of complaints from some students who felt that a new policy regulating entry to dual enrollment courses was too rigid.
Last spring, the school system adopted a prerequisite that any student wishing to take a dual enrollment course for both high school and Wytheville Community College credit in 2009-10 – either online or in a classroom – would need to have an across-the-board 90 percent grade point average.
The new guidelines adopted last week take into consideration more than just overall GPA in governing enrollment in the dual credit courses.
Students will now be eligible to enroll in the high school/WCC classes if they have either an across-the-board 90 percent GPA or a 93 percent average in the specific course subject area in which they wish to enroll.
In addition to achieving the minimum GPA level and passing a dual enrollment placement test administered by WCC, students now must also have not received any incompletes for excessive unexcused absences or had a long-term expulsion during the previous school year.
Students who fail to meet those eligibility requirements, though, will now have a chance to gain entry into the dual enrollment courses by going through an appeal process.
A committee made up of the school principal, guidance counselor and two teachers will consider each individual’s appeal on a case-by-case basis.
Students approved by a committee will be limited in the number of dual enrollment classes they may take each semester and also will not have the classes paid for by the school system unless they earn at least a “C” average.
In addition to passing the new dual enrollment guidelines, the School Board last week also approved a regulation cracking down on the school system’s acceptance of course credit from home school and correspondence programs.
Hodock told the School Board that a few students have been taking classes outside the school system in order to avoid hard local classes or graduate ahead of their class.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s inappropriate,” Hodock said. “I really don’t think the quality of those courses meet the rigors of those we offer.”
Although only a handful of students have used the alternate education route, Hodock said he’s concerned that it could become a trend.
“I’m just afraid it could get out of hand,” he said.
After the meeting, the superintendent clarified that the policy doesn’t apply to students who, for example, may be home schooled for elementary school and then join the public school system as a high schooler – in those cases the school system will still accept the transfer of the outside credit.
The new policy instead applies to students who may be taking correspondence classes while still attending classes at one of the county’s two high schools.
“Bland County Public Schools will NOT accept the transfer of such home school or correspondence courses when the result is for the student to get ahead of his or her cohort, or to substitute such courses for ones that are offered by Bland County Public Schools,” states a portion of the regulation.
However, under the new regulation, students who fall behind will still be allowed to earn local credit for the outside courses “when these courses are expressly approved by the administration in advance, and when they are necessary to enable the student to achieve ‘on-time graduation’ with his or her cohort.”
Nate Hubbard can be reached at 1-800-655-1406 or nhubbard@wythenews.com .

FDA bans flavored tobacco, aims to reduce teen smoking

A federal ban on the sale of most flavored cigarettes, including fruit, candy and clove flavors, went into effect Sept. 22. The ban is the first action taken by the Food and Drug Administration since being granted more power to combat smoking under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed by President Obama in June.

FDA Gets an Earful

WASHINGTON — A desire for clarity on tobacco regulations already put in place by the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA), flavored tobaccoincluding advertising limitations and just what products are included in the ban of most flavored cigarettes, were among the key subjects discussed during the agency’s tobacco stakeholder listening sessions, held by the FDA in September. While many attendees were pleased to know their concerns would be heard, they also were less than satisfied by the lack of answers.